Tanzania: Pressure Over Missing Journalist Mounts

(file photo).

Dar es Salaam — Mwananchi Communications Limited (MCL) yesterday continued to pressure authorities and human rights organisations to intensify the search for its journalist, Azory Gwanda, who has been missing for 18 days now.

The company appealed to the Minister for Information, Culture, Arts and Sports, Dr Harrison Mwakyembe, and Inspector General of Police Simon Sirro to help look for the Coast Region-based journalist, who disappeared on November 21.

According to Mr Gwanda's wife, Ms Anna Pinoni, four men driving an unmarked white Toyota Land Cruiser arrived at her husband's workplace in Kibiti at around 8am and took him away, telling those who were present that they wanted to speak to him.

At about 10am on the same day, Ms Pinoni said the men and her husband arrived at their farm where she was working.

Through a window of the vehicle, she said, her husband inquired where she had left the key to their house. Ms Pinoni said she was allowed to speak to Mr Gwanda who was seated in the back of the vehicle. He told her he would be away on an emergency trip and that he would be back later. The car then left headed Mr Gwanda's home. When Ms Pinoni arrived at home later in the day, she found books and documents scattered on the floor, a sign that the house had been ransacked.

Yesterday, MCL managing director Francis Nanai held a press conference at the firm's headquarters in Tabata, Dar es Salaam, where he said the company still hoped that the journalist would be found safe and sound.

"MCL does not know who kidnapped Azory and why. If he is being held for any crime he is suspected to have committed, then those holding him should charge him in court as the law requires and let justice take its course," said Mr Nanai, who was surrounded by MCL employees, most of who were dressed in black.

Apart from the minister, the company has also written to the Speaker of the National Assembly, the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRGG) and the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) about the disappearance.

Mr Nanai reiterated his call for security organs to speed up investigations into the disappearance.

"We also ask the government to help find Azory. It is our hope that he will be found safe and sound," he said, adding that Rufiji Special Police Zone Commander Onesmo Lyanga had told the company that he had yet to be officially informed of the journalist's disappearance.

Speaking at the same event, Tanzania Editors Forum (TEF) chairman Theophil Makunga echoed Mr Nanai's appeal to security organs to make sure that Mr Gwanda was found safe and sound.

Mr Gwanda's family reported him missing on November 23 at the area police station in Kibiti.

Ms Pinoni informed the MCL management about her husband's disappearance on November 30.

Mr Gwanda covered extensively the string of mysterious killings targeting local government leaders and police officers that shook Kibiti and nearby areas for several months. The government responded by launching a security operation after at least 40 people had been murdered.

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